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Why Do Hamsters Get Tumors?

Last Updated: 03.04.20


Hamsters are known for being a great choice as pets, especially if you have kids and you want to teach them how to be responsible for an animal. If you’ve already welcomed a hamster into your home recently and you need to know how to choose the right house for him or her, don’t hesitate to look for more info here.

Despite the assumption that these furry friends are low-maintenance and problem-free, the truth is that a hamster can, unfortunately, deal with various health issues. They also need to have their space constantly cleaned, be given fresh water and high-quality food every day, as well as be kept entertained.

As you can see, things might not be quite as easy as one might think, if you want to make sure that the little guy has every need met. In terms of health problems, you might be surprised to find out that hamsters are rather prone to dealing with tumors. This notion is certainly one that scared most of us, so in the article, we’ll take a closer look at what this means.


A few words on tumors

As you can imagine, even though they are small, hamsters do have particular needs that have to be met, and one of them is living in a clean environment. Sanitation is a key aspect in the lives of these rodents, so it’s always a good idea to start from this point if you want to ensure the healthy development of your pet.

Many times the word “tumor” is immediately associated with cancer and, of course, death. This is because many times the information is conveyed this way, especially when it comes to the media and certain publications. However, the word “tumor” actually means that an overgrowing cells process is taking place.

Tumors are, in fact, clumps of cells that have started to divide out of control, and not all of them are dangerous. There are two main categories in which these formations can be placed, namely malignant and benign ones. While the former type does come with many additional problems, causing major health issues in the organs, the same cannot necessarily be said about the latter.

Benign tumors can look rather scary, but they don’t pose a real danger to your pet’s health. However, they can cause issues if they grow large enough to affect an animal’s mobility or quality of life. The good news is that this type of tumor can be removed and chances are that things are going to be ok, once this is done.

Moreover, the tumors hamsters deal with are most of the times benign and not malignant ones, so this can be a reassurance for pet parents as well.

Areas in which they can appear

The adrenal gland is known as being a susceptible area in which benign tumors can form. As for the other type, namely malignant ones, they can affect organs that are part of the digestive system, the brain, lymph glands or the womb. Of course, as hamsters grow older, they become more vulnerable to various such health conditions.

As for benign tumors, these can also form around the ears, eyes, across the skin or on the belly. You might also wonder what the signs are that can let you know your pet is dealing with such problems. Since tumors grow, they are usually visible, especially if we’re talking about those near the skin’s surface.

If such a formation starts developing on a slender part of the body, such as the legs, you will be able to quickly notice it and take the necessary measures. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said when it comes to internal tumors since they can develop without being noticed until you can clearly see that your hamster is not ok.

In these cases, other signs can be noticed, so it’s a good thing to be aware of what they are. If your pet starts sleeping a lot more than the usual, you should keep a closer eye on him or her. Also, unexpected moments of aggressiveness, weight loss or a significantly decreased appetite are also indicators that something might be wrong on a more serious level.

Of course, these signs don’t necessarily mean that a tumor is present, but they do tell that something is not the way it should be, so the first thing you should do is take your hamster to a vet and see what needs to be done. Moreover, some types of behavior that might seem playful but are in fact signs of neurological problems include walking in circles or standing on the head.


How to check your hamster for tumors

You most probably pet your hamster and play with him/her, at least a few times a week. During these times, you can also look for lumps, and the belly is the first place in which you should start. If you do notice something rather unusual, this doesn’t mean that the little guy is in danger, but getting an expert’s opinion is always the right course of action.

Lymphoma is a type of cancer that affects the immune system and that is, unfortunately, quite common in hamsters. Since it can affect lymph nodes and internal organs, one of its results consists in the formation of lumps around the belly. If these are large enough, you will be able to feel them as you pet your hamster, and even see them.

One interesting fact, if one can call it that way, about lymphoma, is that it is caused by a virus known as the hamster polyomavirus. Another not-so-great information is that according to statistics, it affects the belly in young hamsters as well. As for female hamsters, they can be affected by mammary tumors.

Diagnosis & treatment

As you probably already know, there is no way of knowing whether a tumor is a malignant or benign one just by looking at it. That’s why, if you do notice any of the symptoms mentioned above, you should take your pet to the vet.

During the examination, you need to provide as many details as possible so that the doctor can run all the necessary tests and gather the data to make a correct diagnosis. The information you provide about your pet’s behavior can make a real difference and narrow down the possible conclusions.

If the tumor is visible, the vet will examine it and might even take a biopsy to take a better look at the cells using a microscope. However, in case the tumor is not visible, the solution might consist of collecting blood to see if the body’s chemistry is altered in any way since this could signal the presence of cells affected by cancer.

Additionally, an X-ray could also be needed to see if there’s a hidden tumor somewhere inside the body. In terms of treatment, the bad news is that such interventions can be rather costly, so you need to assess the situation and see how much of it you can afford. Of course, your pet’s comfort is another decisive factor when making such a decision, especially if surgery is needed.

In a lucky situation, the tumor is benign and if your pet is already a few years old, you might decide that taking no action is the right choice. While some tumors can be completely removed, you need to be aware that any such intervention significantly affects your pet’s quality of life, especially since we’re talking about hamsters which are small and sensitive animals.




Irina Ionescu

As a long-term learner and animal lover, Irina helps her readers find the best products and accessories for their pets, as well as the latest training techniques, tips & tricks on how to handle animals.

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